TIRANA Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha secured a new parliamentary majority and the survival of his government on Thursday after a junior partner in the ruling coalition jumped ship ahead of a June election.
With 72 votes in the 140-seat assembly, Berisha pushed through a cabinet reshuffle thanks to the support of three lawmakers who quit the opposition Socialist Party to stand as independents in the election.
Berisha is bidding for a third consecutive four-year term in the June 23 poll, watched closely by the European Union - which NATO member Albania wants to join - for any sign of the unrest that marred past elections.
The Socialist Integration Movement (SIM), a coalition ally of Berisha since 2009, quit on Wednesday to join forces with the opposition Socialist Party ahead of the election.
Thursday's parliamentary vote amounted to a confidence motion in Berisha's government. He hailed an "historic victory".
"You repelled a primitive effort by (Socialist Party leader Edi) Rama to create a technical government," Berisha told lawmakers as the opposition left the chamber.
Florion Mima, a member of Berisha's Democratic Party and former deputy finance minister, was voted in as the new Economy, Trade and Energy Minister, replacing SIM's Edmond Haxhinasto.
Aldo Bumci, the former Culture and Tourism minister, was elected as the new Foreign Minister. Halim Kosova, a gynaecologist, became the Health Minister.
Visar Zhiti, a poet imprisoned for 13 years by the hardline communist regime of late Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha, was named as the new Culture, Tourism and Youth minister.
(Reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Matt Robinson and Mike Collett-White)